Medical Marketing │ How to Advertise Your Healthcare Practice
Reading time: 8 minutes
When you’re looking to bring in new patients to increase appointments and revenue, word-of-mouth and referrals can only get you so far. What your medical practice really needs is a high-quality marketing strategy. One that reaches more potential patients while maximizing your return on investment. So where do you start?
Evaluate Your Current Marketing Efforts
If you never (or hardly ever) advertise your medical practice, skip ahead to defining your marketing goals.
Make a list of the types of marketing and advertising you do today, how much you spend on each channel (social media, Google ads, direct mail, etc.), how you track performance and whether you’d consider some, if any, of these efforts successful. Knowing what works well for your healthcare marketing – and what doesn’t – will help you make more strategic decisions going forward.
Now, what are you missing? How’s your online presence? Does your practice need a website? Is your contact information accurately listed in Google My Business and other online directories? Do your search rankings need a little (or a lot of) SEO love? Filling in the gaps in your reach is also a critical component of a successful strategy.
Define Your Practice Marketing Goals
You may be tempted to take your marketing day by day. While that may work for some aspects of your healthcare practice, it won’t work for your marketing. You need to set realistic goal(s) and create a marketing plan to act as a roadmap for your overall marketing strategy.
What’s your #1 advertising goal?
- Attract prospective patients
- Retain current patients
- Increase patient referrals
- Promote a product/service
- Return on investment
When we asked this question to dental professionals as part of an ADA webinar, patient acquisition was the resounding answer (78%) followed by patient base retention and ROI tied at 11%.
Let’s say your goal is the ever-popular new patient. Think back… How many new patients do you typically acquire in a year? Do you get more new patients during a particular time of year, for example Oct. through Dec., just before benefits reset? What would a realistic increase in new patients look like? And how much should you spend for that increase?
Set Your Print & Digital Marketing Budget
On average, healthcare businesses spend 9% of their revenue on marketing. For physicians, dentists and chiropractors, this is roughly split between print advertising (40%), digital/online (35%) and TV/radio/OOH (25%). OOH stands for out-of-home advertising, like billboards. Here are 3 markets by channel ad spend as an example:
You should also determine the lifetime value of your patients before setting your ad budget. Here’s a basic calculation:
- V = Avg. Value of Appointment
- N = Avg. # of Appointments/Year
- Y = Avg. # of Yrs. at Practice
A clear knowledge of your finances, what it takes to be competitive in your market and your patient base will help you determine the appropriate budget for your marketing campaign. Think of marketing as an investment, not an expense. Every dollar you put into a marketing campaign should bring in at least $1.01 in revenue to your business. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time and resources.
Choose Your Marketing Channels
There’s no shortage of options to advertise your medical practice. Just remember, what you say is more important than how you say it. A message that resonates with your target audience of prospective patients or increases patient engagement is the key to success. And you don’t need to do everything all at once! Focus on the advertising channels that generate the best response and go from there.
In the past 12 months, these advertising channels generated the highest response from routine healthcare customers AND potential doctor switchers:
- Ads/coupons in the mail
- TV commercials
- SEM (like Google ads)
- Social media marketing
- Mobile app or text message
Identify Your Target Audience
The most successful medical marketing campaigns use data to identify the target audience and then market directly to its needs with customized, relevant messaging. As you build your marketing strategy, consider these 5 targeting capabilities.
1. Your Customer Data
Utilize basic contact info for email marketing to current patients. An up-to-date email list is a great way to increase patient engagement with appointment reminders and content marketing or video content tailored to current patients. You can also text subscribers to solicit online reviews or testimonials for your practice or send birthday mailers to patients. Customer data is beneficial for new patient marketing too. Social media platforms, direct mail and other marketing channels have options to create lookalike audiences that target potential patients based on this data.
It’s important to consider how far your patients are willing to travel to receive care. For physicians, most patients are drawn from a 21-mile radius. That’s cut more than half to a 10-mile radius for dentists and orthodontists. Practices in densely populated areas will serve much smaller geographic markets too. Conversely, practices in rural markets should often increase their targeting radius to reach enough potential patients. A local marketing agency can provide more specifics on where to target based on your specialty and market.
Probably the most well-known targeting criteria, demographic data is socioeconomic information about a particular population, such as age, sex, income and household size/structure. This type of data can be extremely beneficial to various healthcare specialties. Pediatricians can use it to target families with children. Obstetricians and gynecologists can use it to target women within a specific age range. Geriatricians and optometrists can use it to target seniors aging into Medicare. Plastic surgeons can use it to target households with annual incomes on par with those of patients opting for elective surgery procedures.
4. Purchase Power
In marketing, purchase power data demonstrates the ability of an audience to purchase a good or service – and compares that ability to the average consumer. This ensures you reach new patients able and willing to spend money on your services. For example, Valpak’s audience spends 23% more on medical services than the U.S. average, including 25% more on physician care and 28% more at non-physician specialists (chiropractors, psychologists, etc.). This type of data can be analyzed at the household-level even, depending on the marketing channel and budget you decide on for your medical marketing campaign.
5. New Mover
Relatively new to the game, new mover data is an incredible resource for medical professionals. Especially when you consider that 64% of consumers change all or some service providers after moving or purchasing a home. Pharmacist, dentist and physician are 3 of the top 5 providers they’re most likely to switch, which makes sense. Marketing agencies with new mover data can help you welcome new movers to your area with an offer for a free consultation. These mailing programs can often be targeted even further to new homeowners or new movers to a particular ZIP code and automated so you can mail a new audience each month.
Choose When & What to Advertise
As a general rule, you should always be advertising. But seasonality can provide peak sales opportunities for certain specialties too. For medical clinics, fall and winter are often the busiest times for acute visits. Dental practices, on the other hand, often experience a “fall lull” before the end-of-year push to exhaust benefits. Allergists, too, see less demand for environmental allergies depending on season/location. To boost demand during slower months, offer services and specials that will get more patients to schedule appointments. For example, a pediatrician could promote low-cost school sports physicals for the late summer.
Patients very seriously consider the cost of treatment and subsequent care when choosing a medical provider. Offering discounts to cash patients and elsewhere (where appropriate) can increase new patients and your customer base. There are also some services patients expect to be free or discounted, such as a new patient visit or an initial consultation for care.
Once you decide on an offer, make it easy to understand and redeem. Here are some best practices to follow:
- Feature a clear value statement
- Include a discount on a popular service
- Keep restrictions on redemption minimal
- Clearly state the offer expiration date
- Don’t promote low-value or frivolous items
Measure Marketing Campaign Performance
As you set up your marketing campaign, use separate phone numbers, landing pages and calls to action for each channel (print, LinkedIn, search engine optimization, etc.). This way, you can evaluate the success of each channel separately and ramp up or dial down spend based on performance. Whether or not you met your advertising goal is the easiest and most appropriate way to measure campaign success. Performance tracking also helps you capture what went well and where you can improve for future campaigns.
There are several key performance indicators (KPIs), essentially metrics, to consider as well to ensure your marketing continues moving you toward your goal(s):
5 Medical Marketing KPIs
- Return on investment
- Leads per channel
- Cost per new patient
- Lifetime customer value
- Patient retention rate
Hire a Marketing Agency
You don’t have to do it all. Thousands of healthcare professionals and medical offices delegate their advertising and marketing to ad agencies. With a dedicated local rep, you can focus on treating your patients and operating your practice, knowing your advertising is in good hands. Contact your local Valpak office for more info on medical marketing.
- 2021 EASI/AdMall Annual Receipts Analysis based the latest reported data from the IRS, US Bureau of Economic Analysis, and the US Census Bureau.
- 2021 AudienceSCAN®
- “How Long and How Far Do Adults Travel for Primary Care?” OFM.WA.gov
- State of the Industry: Room for Growth.” DentalRevenue.com
- Claritas Consumer Buying Power Data
- Valpak Event Mailer Survey
- “Can Retail Clinics Improve Patient Access, Reduce Costs for Payers?” HealthPayerIntelligence.com